BMW look set to limit the use of carbon fibre, turning instead to lightweight steels to keep profits high.

The German auto maker has invested heavily in carbon fibre production and, while its stronger and lighter than other traditional materials like aluminium and steel, it’s also vastly more expensive, which leaves the company with tough choices on how to remain profitable as it’s competition closes in.

One of the options being looked at is bonding carbon fibre with other lightweight steels to reduce weight without dramatically increasing the cost.

Oliver Zipse, BMW’s board member responsible for manufacturing said;

The main equation is how much cost do I spend for a kilogram reduction in weight. It is not about one material it is about the combination of materials.

Back in 2013 BMW announced the launch of two cars which heavily featured carbon fibre. The €45,000 i3 city car and the i8 hybrid which featured a passenger cell made entirely of carbon fibre. Sales of BMW’s i3 electric car failed to get going which, analysts say is in part down to the use of carbon fibre which has made the vehicle too expensive.

BMW faces stiff competition in the electric car market as Tesla, owned by its German rivals Daimler AG, plans to launch its new electric car models for around $35,000, and have already received up to 400,000 pre-orders.

The cost of carbon fibre is expected to reduce as the use of the material increases and BMW has strategically positioned itself in pole position by investing almost 2 billion euros in advanced lightweight composite technologies.

The company made the announcement while celebrating the opening of “Excellence in Carbon Fibre”, an exclusive event dedicated to its carbon fibre technologies, at Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery in Tokyo, Japan. Over the past 30 years, Lamborghini has been an industry leader in both the development and implementation of advanced lightweight materials. From the Countach to the Huracán, not a single series-produced Lamborghini came to life with less carbon fibre than its predecessor.

The two companies have agreed a co-operation under the project title ‘CFRP Press Technologies and Processes Automation’, and will work together to further develop higher levels of manufacturing automation that are more suitable for larger scale production, with great advantages in process stability.

Maurizio Reggiani, Automobili Lamborghini Board Member for Research & Development commented on the deal by saying:

By continuing to develop our patented Forged Composite materials, we are able to create a product that can enhance Lamborghini super sports cars in both their performance and their appearance. The ability to leverage this kind of lightweight material gives Lamborghini a competitive advantage that will benefit our cars, as well as the production process, in the future.

Lamborghini debuted the latest car to showcase its mastery of carbon fibre during the 2016 Geneva motor show. The Centenario, which was on display for the exclusive event in Tokyo, is available in a body made of fully exposed carbon fibre.

Ford has announced that it’s adding two more years of production for it’s all new carbon fibre GT supercar. The announcement follows on from letters being sent to potential customers notifying them of their application status to purchase the car.

The additional production supports the recent decision by Ford Performance to race Ford GT in both IMSA and World Endurance Championship (WEC) series events for four years.

Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance said;

While we can’t build enough Ford GTs for everyone who has applied, we are going to produce additional vehicles in an effort to satisfy more of our most loyal Ford ambassadors. We want to keep Ford GT exclusive, but at the same time we know how vital this customer is to our brand.

Year three of production will support applicants who were placed on the wait list; previously deferred applicants and those who missed the initial application window will be served by production year four. The application process for fourth-year production will reopen in early 2018. Those who already applied to own the car will only need to update their request.

This special commemorative series has been created to honour the centenary of its founder, Ferruccio Lamborghini with the designers given a free hand to create an open and exciting design.

The body of the Centenario is made completely from carbon fibre composites. All the sections from the front bonnet, scissor door panels and open top roof line are super lightweight and are designed for aerodynamic superiority. Air flows through ducts within the front headlight casings and others in the side-skirts and around the wheel arches, improving airflow to the rear radiators and providing optimised cooling.

The car has a unique rear-wheel steering system which increases turning agility at low speeds and requires less steering angle. At high speeds the rear tyres will turn in the same direction as the steering angle which leads to a virtual increase in the wheelbase providing increased stability and optimises vehicle response.
lamborghini-centenario roadster-composites-today-3

The Pirelli ‘pzero’ tyres have been specially developed for the rear-wheel steering system, sit on front/rear rims in forged and milled aluminium. The spokes’ fan shape, accented in carbon fibre, mask ducts extracting hot air from the carbon ceramic brakes, finished with a central-locking wheel nut sporting the Lamborghini shield.

Under the bonnet sits the most powerful engine ever made my Lamborghini. The naturally aspirated V12 engine will get you to 60 mph in under 2.9 seconds with a top speed of more than 215 mph.

As with the coupé version, the Centenario roadster will be limited to 20 units and will be delivered to their hand rubbing customers throughout 2017.



The world’s first car made with graphene in its bodywork was at an exhibition to highlight the future technology of graphene.

The car which was showcased at the Science in the City festival in Manchester is made by the Briggs Automotive Company in Liverpool who are trialling the new lightweight material for use in its single-seater Mono sports car.

The graphene-enhanced resin used on this project is stronger than traditional materials, which has enabled the reduction in the amount of fibres in the composite material, resulting in a significant weight and cost reduction.

James Baker, graphene business director at The University of Manchester, said:

The graphene car is an excellent example of how graphene can be incorporated into existing products to improve performance. It shows that graphene is having a real world impact just 12 years after it was isolated.

BAC worked with Carmarthenshire based Haydale Composite Solutions on the trial, which used graphene-enhanced carbon fibre, and focused on the rear arches because of their size and complexity, which allowed the material and manufacturing process to be thoroughly tested.

The company’s proprietary process disperses graphene within the resin matrix, exceeding the performance specifications of the part, while making significant savings in mass with reductions of approximately 20%. This has clear implications for cost, performance and fuel economy in vehicles if applied widely in the manufacturing process.

New lightweight materials such as composites will play an increasingly large role in the heavy vehicles of tomorrow, particularly in city buses and distribution trucks.

Working in association with researcher Magnus Burman from Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Scania is investigating the potential for using lighter materials in both chassis structures and other load-bearing parts of vehicles.

Our studies show that weight savings of up to 40% can be achieved if key load-bearing parts are replaced with lighter materials.

Reduced vehicle weight, or so-called structural weight, means more cargo per transport shipment and, as a result, the potential for fewer runs. This represents a major opportunity both for the environment and for future electrified solutions of various kinds.

Heavy goods distribution trucks often carry bulky loads, so the weight savings are not great, but an electric truck’s range is highly dependent on the vehicle’s weight. Halving the weight here means doubling the range per load.

Composite materials currently have a high purchase price, but when viewed from a lifecycle perspective they make good economic sense. On top of the low weight, composite materials provide strength and rigidity, while fatigue and ageing aren’t generally seen as problems. Composites also don’t rust, and they don’t degrade in the same way as metal structures.

Another advantage with composite use in chassis structures is that it’s possible to create larger integrated structures than with steel. This means fewer joints, which in turn further reduces weight. The researchers say that tomorrow’s vehicles will be made from a bigger mix of materials, with a focus on both function and weight.

From these studies Scania has produced a vision for an integrated lightweight chassis made from carbon fibre composite-material and adapted for use in a long-range, completely electric vehicle.

The light, self-supporting structure borrows materials and design concepts from the aviation industry. The battery is located in the space in the middle.

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